Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is still the most popular floating market in Bangkok as it is the oldest floating market in Thailand and a landmark for decades. Although the market evolved more into a tourist attraction, it’s still worth the visit in my honest opinion. In this article, I’ll tell you all the information you need for a great visit to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
A brief history of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
As said, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the oldest floating market of Thailand. Back in the days, King Rama V gave the floating market the name “Damnoen Saduak”, which literally means “going very convenient”, as the floating market is located at the intersection of three different provinces. During that time, the majority of the transport went by ships on the river. It was the previous King Rama IV who ordered a 32-kilometres canal to connect the two rivers Mae Klong and Tha Chin for convenience purposes. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is exactly located at these connecting canals. Here, for decades, people from the three provinces Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram and Ratchaburi traded all sorts of goods from boats in the so-called khlongs, the Thai word for a canal. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was the place to go to trade and sell goods for Thai in three different provinces. Eventually, the Tourism Authority of Thailand marked the floating market as a tourist attraction in 1971. Over the years, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market became one of the coolest spots for tourists, until the market reached a point that it converted into a tourist market.
The famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and its busy khlongs
Delicious barbecue pork can be bought from this canoe
Is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market a tourist trap?
Let’s answer that question right away, as it is something that you might have read or heard already. People complain about the loss of authenticity. Throughout the canals, you will find a lot of souvenir shops, which has nothing to do with the floating market what it used to be. Also, the vendors can be pushy too, which is not what you are used to in Thailand, especially not at other floating markets. In some way, I agree that it is too touristy, but tourist attractions such as The Grand Palace and Wat Pho are touristy too, but still worth the visit. Is it a tourist trap? I don’t think so. It’s still fun to go through the canals, experiencing a floating market and get some food from vendors who prepare you fresh seafood straight from their boat.
Here is the most important thing you have to understand. The people who live in the villages around Damnoen Saduak Floating Market have to make a living. They live their own life. If tourists visit the floating market instead of local customers, the vendors will sell goods that tourists will buy. If they keep selling their local goods and nobody buys it, there wouldn’t be a floating market left. With that being said, that does not mean you won’t be able to find local goods, though!
Countless shops that can be visited per boat
Why is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market still worth the visit?
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is by far the largest floating market near Bangkok. There is a small market before you enter the floating market itself, where you will find a variety of souvenir shops. But the main reason you want to visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is to hire a private boat with a Thai driver and sail through the canals. For a motorized small boat, you will pay 600 THB for one hour. It’s also possible to hire a boat without an engine, where the Thai driver will paddle through the canals, which costs you 400 THB for one hour. When floating through the canals, you will pass by vendors located on the side selling all sorts of goods. Herbs, spices, souvenirs, artwork, clothes, robes, etcetera. The variety of these goods is big and in my opinion, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market has some of the largest collection of souvenirs you can find in and near Bangkok, making it an excellent place to buy something to bring back to your country.
Going through the canals of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market surrounded by greens
You don't have to take a motorized boat. Just get a paddle boat instead!
During the tour, you will see several art vendors
Plenty of souvenirs to buy at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Food gets prepared at the boat, like this Pad Kra Pao vendor
During the ride through the canals, you will come across several canoes preparing and serving all sorts of delicious foods and drinks. Comparing to other floating markets, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market has the largest amount of floating vendors. For example, when visiting Taling Chan Floating Market, you will find a maximum of five canoes selling food or other goods from their boats. Devour a freshly made Pad Thai while floating on a small boat looking at all the goods they sell next to the canals is pretty much a cool experience, don’t you think?
What did I not like about Damnoen Saduak Floating Market?
The biggest thing I didn’t like about Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was the fumes from the motorized boats. It’s the worst! As the engines often are turned on and off to let the boats float for a while, a cloud of toxic fumes will appear throughout the floating market. At one point, there was a traffic jam at the canal in the centre of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Boats were waiting to get through a small tunnel, while the whole canal was filled up with black and blue smoke. I cannot stress this enough, but visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the early morning, before nine o’clock to avoid busy canals and toxic fumes.
The fumes can't escape under the roofs of each boat while surrounded by countless boats. Avoid this situation by visiting Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the early morning!
As said before, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is focussed on tourists and every time you point at some of the pretty stuff vendors sell next to the canal, the boat will drive towards that shop. I understand that the vendors need to make a living and that tourists are their target group, but it simply doesn’t feel right.
When should you visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market?
Here comes the tricky part. Visiting Damnoen Saduak Floating Market by yourself is difficult if you don’t have your own car or won’t rent a private taxi. Yes, you can book a tour or take the train to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, however, you will most likely arrive between nine or ten in the morning. This is something you want to avoid. To experience Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in perfect conditions, you want to be there between six and nine in the morning, before the majority of the tourists will visit this popular floating market. You won’t have to worry about the toxic fumes and you can enjoy the quiet canals almost on your own. And yes, you will be finished exploring Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the early morning, but then you go straight to popular Amphawa Floating Market, which is only ten kilometres from Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
Like Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Amphawa Floating Market gets extremely busy around noon, so you have all the time in the world to explore Amphawa in your one pace. As Amphawa Floating Market is only open on the weekend (including Friday), you must visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market on Friday, Saturday or Sunday as well to combine these two floating markets to a one day trip. If you visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market by car, simply drive all the way to the market where you can find plenty of parking spots. You will pay 20 THB to park and the people can bring you to the boats, where you pay 600 THB for a motorized boat. This is the cheapest price as some other boats might ask 800 THB per ride.
For more information, check out our article about Amphawa Floating Market.
Tip: A great alternative is to book an accommodation near Damnoen Saduak Floating Market or Amphawa Floating Market and visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in the early morning.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Plenty of souvenirs to buy at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Where is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market located?
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located in the Ratchaburi province, 100 kilometres southwest from Bangkok. As mentioned, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located close to Amphawa Floating Market, making it perfect to visit both these floating markets on the same day, preferably in the morning.
How to get to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market?
As said, try to get to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market by car, either rent a car or hire a private van. It will take around one hour to get to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market from Bangkok, especially if you leave early as recommended.
Alternatives are booking a group tour, which in my opinion, you don’t necessarily have to. What most people do is getting the bus from Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak. The only downside is that the earliest bus leaves at six o’clock in the morning and the bus ride will take around two and a half hour, meaning that you will be at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market when the market already starts getting crowded. My advice: get your own transport or sleep near Damnoen Saduak Floating Market the day before.
My overall verdict about Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is still a great place to visit during your trip to Thailand. Exploring the market while sitting in a small boat is a great experience. Yes, the authentic goods that used the be sold here made its room for souvenirs, but keep in mind that the people have to adapt themselves in order to make a living. And although the vendors can be a bit pushy, a simple ‘no’ and a smile is something everyone understands. Make sure to visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as early as possible to avoid the crowds and the toxic fumes. And while you are there, you might find some cool souvenir you won’t find anywhere else in Thailand.
I recommend visiting Amphawa Floating Market after Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Amphawa Floating Market offers a huge variety of food, so make sure you visit the market while hungry!